Spending a little time understanding the ins and outs of energy usage can have significant advantages and help you appreciate why residential electricity bills have risen over recent years.

One of the key factors to consider is peak demand. Chances are it sounds familiar, but you don't know exactly what it is and how it affects average electricity bills. So let us help you understand.

Peak demand: The basics

Peak demand is exactly what it suggests - the period when people are most reliant on their electricity supply. It is the point at which the highest amount of electricity is being used at any one point in time across the entire network. In general, people use the most electricity later in the day - between 4pm and 8pm. It's not difficult to see why, because this is when most people get home from work or school. They'll be cooking meals, washing clothes, sitting in front of the TV and engaging in various other tasks that involve electricity usage.

Why is understanding peak demand important?

You might be asking yourself why peak demand should be of interest to you. Queensland's population is expanding, meaning more and more pressure is being placed on the electricity network. 

Not only does this contribute to peak demand, but puts strain on cables, wires and other technology used to deliver energy to your home. As a result, providers are upgrading their networks wherever possible to ensure these growing demands can be met. This is often reflected in consumers' bills, as average electricity prices rise in order to accommodate these upgrades. 

Price rises are not something Ergon Energy likes to impose, but they are necessary to ensure you continue to receive the best possible service. Rest assured we are always trying to come up with new ways to minimise electricity prices - and there are steps you can take in your own home, as well.

What can I do to lower peak demand?

The need to use more energy efficient technology has been no secret over recent times and, by taking notice of these messages, you could be doing your bit for more than just the environment. Lowering energy usage not only brings environmental benefits, it also helps to lower peak demand. Ergon Energy offers a number of top tips to its customers to give them inspiration in reducing their usage - and purchasing energy efficient appliances is just one of them. 

We recommend you first focus on the appliances you use most. If you find yourself doing several batches of washing a week, then it might be worth thinking about buying a more efficient machine. If entertainment is more your thing, assess the energy ratings of TVs, DVD players and any other equipment before making a purchase. 

Once your appliances are installed, your duties don't stop there. Leaving them on standby can create a significant drain on your finances, not to mention put unnecessary pressure on the electricity network. While this might seem like quite a task when you've got so many electrical products plugged in, there are ways to make the situation a little bit easier. Why not use a power adaptor? This means you can turn several items off at the same time, simply by flicking one switch on the wall. Alternatively, you might want to promote a "switch off" culture in your household. Whoever was the last person to use a particular appliance should be the one responsible for turning it off completely. 

In order to combat the effects of peak demand, it is a good idea to change the time at which you use appliances. For example, rather than switching on your dishwasher as soon as you've finished eating in the evening, why not wait until just before you go to bed? The dishes will be clean when you get up in the morning and you will have done your bit for the wider network.

The same goes for any other appliances you might tend to use late-afternoon into the evening. Many washing machines now come with a time delay function, so make use of it and you'll have the same results as if you'd switched it on the previous evening. It also pays to switch your dishwasher or washing machine to a slightly lower temperature. This will reduce the amount you pay on your bills while ensuring your dishes and clothes are just as clean. 

Ergon Energy also recommends you think carefully about which tariff you are on, as this can help minimise the effects of peak demand. An economy tariff, for example, is perfect for items that don't require a constant supply of electricity - such as pool pumps. It can be used in conjunction with other residential tariffs and could be the perfect option for your needs. 

The electricity supply is available for a minimum of eight hours between 10pm and 7am, meaning your pumps can still get to work without having to cost the earth. If everyone adopts these habits, then the impact on our electricity network could be great. Who knows, your average electricity bills might even come down as a result.